Abbotsford school aims to build empathy with a fence (with video)

Eugene Reimer Middle School project designed to improve understanding and compassion toward others

Abbotsford firefighter Mike Mackinnon and Eugene Reimer Middle School student student Lisa Huynh work on a poppy for the Empathy fence project.

On Friday morning, several classrooms at Eugene Reimer Middle School in Abbotsford were busy creating art for a planned “empathy fence.”

At some desks, students were paired with Abbotsford police and firefighters, many working on painted poppies to remember people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In another class, students were working on First Nations designs to commemorate missing indigenous women.

Others were preparing to help Syrian refugees create images of a dove of peace.

The artwork will be placed on a fence at the school in a few weeks.

Organizers of the two-day project hope the work will help the students develop understanding and compassion for others.

“We want them to know that it’s important to help others,” said Nerlap Sidhu, a teacher at Reimer.

Invited guests to the two-day event included parents, First Nations, police, fire and military representatives.

The event listed several goals: to bring about awareness about missing indigenous women and emergency services workers with PTSD, to “engage students and community in activities that awaken compassion and empathy for others” and to “develop a sense of belonging pride in students with aboriginal roots.”

“(The) ultimate goal is to make sure our kids can connect with others in the community,” Sidhu told The News.

“When they see a firefighter out there working, or see a paramedic or other first responder out there working ,they can relate and they can say, well, yeah, you know what, we’re so appreciative. I think that’s the bottom line – that appreciation.”

Sidhu said the school intends to continue teaching courses to improve empathy and compassion to the students “until they graduate.”

Home Depot sponsored the project.

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